Already available at a smattering of brands and individual
hotels, mobile hotel check-in is poised for rapid expansion this year across
While check-in kiosks and other methods of avoiding the
front desk line in recent years have become more commonplace at hotels,
integration of mobile technology into the travel process is spurring greater
adoption across some major hotel brands. At the same time, some third-party
technology suppliers are providing tools for hotels and distributors to offer mobile
"You're going to see a ton of change with hotel
check-in apps," Concur executive vice president of supplier and travel
management company services Mike Koetting said in November during a Business Travel News conference in
Dallas. "There's a tremendous opportunity to avoid the front desk, but it
does require some infrastructure investment from hotels."
Marriott Hotels, for example, during the first half of this
year plans to offer mobile check-in at all 500 of its hotels globally, at least
for Marriott Rewards members. Guests who are members can check from via the
Marriott Mobile App from 4 p.m. on the
day before arrival. Upon arrival, their key card is waiting for them at a designated
mobile check-in desk.
Hyatt Hotels and Resorts has a similar process at select
hotels, with kiosks available for incoming guests to retrieve keys.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's Aloft brand has
taken a slightly different approach at the nine properties currently piloting the
Smart Check-In program. Guests receive an Aloft-branded Starwood Preferred
Guest Card and, on the day of their arrival, receive a text message telling
them their room number. They then can head straight to their room and use the
SPG card as their key.
Third parties also have been developing mobile check-in
technology. Mountain View, Calif.-based CheckMate late last year launched a
beta version of a mobile check-in platform, which it piloted with a handful of
hotels in California. Hotels using the technology, which works with any
property management system, receive a daily report of arriving guests and can
send out white-labeled emails the day before a guest arrives.
"Guests could send in-room requests, arrival times and
add loyalty numbers or special requests," said CheckMate co-founder
Anthony Maggio. "On the day of arrival, hotels access that information and
can go in and assign rooms in advance."
Besides individual hotels, hotel distributors including
online travel agencies and travel management companies also can use the
CheckMate platform, Maggio said. Distributors can field guests' requests and send
them to a hotel prior to arrival, even if that hotel itself is not using the
technology. Hotel booking and search tool Room 77 acquired CheckMate in April
2013 and is among its first distribution partners, along with PointsHound and
the Alliance Reservations Network.
Maggio said that he would like to work with corporate travel
agencies, as "a lot have not had the budget or resources for this type of
operation, and we think their travelers would definitely benefit from these
kinds of things."
Concur's Koetting said as more
hotels retrofit their properties with the appropriate technology, it soon could
be commonplace to check in online and get a bar code readable by a key
dispenser near a hotel's elevator. As mobile check-in expands, front desk
arrangements also could evolve to adapt, he added. Some hotels might move to
models like an Apple Store, with roving employees allowing "the front desk
to come to you," he said.
Aloft's mobile check-in
capabilities already have spurred rethinking about the front desk, said Starwood
vice president of specialty select brands Paige Francis. At the Harlem Aloft in
New York City, for example, the desk is in the center of the front lobby.
"We took the front desk off the back wall and put our talent in the middle
of the space," Francis said. "Some people do want to bypass the front
desk, but with it in the middle, they can interact with them in a more
meaningful way when they want to interact with them."
Some previous mobile check-in strategies have been slow to
expand. For example, Holiday Inn's Mobile Room Key program, in which the mobile
phone itself becomes a guest's key, first began tests in 2010 but remains
deployed only in a handful of hotels. Sabre TripCase director of project
management Ben Newell said some early attempts were "a solution looking
for a problem."
"People don't necessarily hate keys; the
real problem is they didn't want to go to the front desk," Newell said. "With
this, the technology got a little ahead of itself, though it may end up being a